The stresses of everyday life can easily pile up and become unmanageable, especially right now, amid a pandemic. Loving and caring for your body and wellness can help reduce stress and allow one to be in tune with their body; gentle yoga and breathing techniques can help with that.
Jenny Garrison, owner of Breathing Space Studio in Wellsboro, teaches and practices Kripalu style yoga, which is very centered in coming into a relationship with body and spirit.
“It’s not an aerobic kind of yoga, it’s a more gentle practice,” Garrison said. Kripalu style yoga “invites you to listen to the messages you are receiving from your body, and to move in ways that combine breath and movement with inner attention and ease.”
There’s no judgement, just kindness, just gratitude and building a relationship with your body.
Yoga can help with circulation, the body’s respiratory system and sleeping. But beyond that, it gives people a chance to get out of their heads and into their body.
“Most of the time, we have thoughts churning and churning and churning in our heads. Coming into a practice where you’re paying really close attention to what’s going on with body and breath helps to give your thinking a rest,” she said. “It changes your perspective. It’s like taking a break from a chattering mind.”
Everybody is different and everyone has a different anatomical structure, she said. While some people are able to easily stretch deeply, others aren’t.
“The main focus with Kripalu style yoga is paying attention to your body,” she said. When practicing Kripalu style yoga, one will do different traditional poses where it’s enough of a stretch, but it’s not too much on the body.
As people get older and their bodies change, someone might not be able to do something they could have done 10 years ago. But they can still do things without forcing movement or a stretch. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise; it’s nonimpact and is ideal for someone who used to have a super active lifestyle and isn’t able to do that anymore.
“A yoga practice can be as simple as deep breathing and opening your arms as you breathe in and bringing your hands to your heart as you breathe out. That kind of practice is something that almost everyone can do,” Garrison said.
Breathing is a huge and important aspect of yoga, as it can help draw one into a place of paying deeper attention to their body.
“At a very core, basic level, yoga is about combining movement with breath,” Garrison said.
Learning to breathe a “complete breath” — where one inhales so deeply their whole torso is filled and exhaling completely — is one part of that. Being quiet and taking complete breaths can help to bring one into a centered, grounded place, she said.
Garrison’s recently published book, “Yoga with Trees,” walks readers through taking that complete breath.
“As you breathe in, imagine a glass filling from the bottom up. Let your lower ribs and belly expand, then the mid and upper chest can follow. Pause, and exhale fully as you feel your lower ribs begin to contract and your belly flatten toward your spine. Keep your shoulders soft. Keep your jaw relaxed and your mouth closed. Enjoy full deep breaths. Even a few deep and conscious breaths can make a significant difference, helping you to feel calm and alive.”
There are many different styles of yoga; Garrison encourages everyone to listen to their bodies and find a style and level that is appropriate for them.
When beginning practice, Garrison suggests starting with a centering. For some people, this could be a prayer. For others, it could be lighting incense and listening to music, or simply going to the yoga mat and taking a deep breath. That’s part of the beauty of yoga; it is very individualized. The practice can be built around who you are and what is true for you, Garrison said.
“Doing a little bit often is more beneficial than doing a lot once every two weeks,” Garrison said. Committing 15-20 minutes each day would be a wonderful practice, she said.
Garrison’s book, “Yoga with Trees,” could be a good option for someone looking into beginning yoga, especially now when some in-person classes are on hold and can’t do yoga with other people. Instead, there are 28 yoga poses that people can do with trees as a partner.
“I published this book just before the pandemic emerged, and it seems that now, when we are not yet able to practice in a class with others, that nature can be our best friend, and also our partner in a yoga practice,” Garrison said. “Spring is coming, and it may be fun to try some poses with a tree as your partner.”
Though Garrison is not currently offering yoga classes due to the pandemic, more information on Garrison and her practice can be found at jennygarrison.com. “Yoga with Trees” is available locally at Garrisons Clothing Shop, From My Shelf Books, and Wild Asaph Outfitters, and also available on line from Bookbaby Press or Amazon in hard copy and ebook versions.